Sky Ocean Rescue
Launched in January 2017, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to shine a spotlight on the issues of ocean health, particularly single-use plastic, and inspire people to make small changes.
Sky Ocean Rescue's whale, Plasticus, which is made up of a quarter of a ton of plastic – the amount that enters our oceans every second, came to Parliament, to bring to life the scale of the problem.
Here are the top tips on how you can #PassOnPlastic
- Drink out of a refillable water bottle
- Use a bag for life
- Avoid products that contain microbeads
- Buy cotton buds with cardboard rather than plastic stems
- Swop your wet wipe for a flannel
- Use a metal or glass straw
- Buy fruit and veg loose rather than in plastic packaging
- Give up plastic cutlery
- Bring your own travel mug to your favourite coffee shop
We all have a role to play in saving our oceans. Small changes = big difference!
Centenary of Voting Rights for Women (6th February 2018)
|Truly wonderful to see all the Acts of Parliament that made it possible for women to vote and to take their seats. It is thanks to the sacrifice, courage and determination of so many suffragettes and suffragists that there are now over 200 female MPs - our democracy is stronger as a result.|
UK Parliament Week (12th-18th November 2018)
UK Parliament Week is an annual festival that engages people from across the UK with Parliament, explores what it means to them and empowers them to get involved.
There is something for everyone: whether you attend or organise an event.
Organisations across the UK run events and activities throughout UK Parliament Week which explore what the UK Parliament means to them and their community.
Your event or activity can be as big or as small as you like! It can be aimed at the public, or it can be a private event aimed specifically at your staff or service users.
As long as your event helps your audience to engage with the work of Parliament, explore its history, and empowers them to get involved, there is no limit to how you can take part in UK Parliament Week. For more information please click here
Stalking Protection Bill
Thank you to everyone for their support for the 2nd Reading of my Private Members Bill.
The Stalking Protection Bill can be found here
Care Home Fees After Death - Consultation
Last year the Competition and Markets Authority opened a consumer protection case after a study found that care homes charging fees after death was widespread across the sector. As a result of this work one care group decided to stop using a contract term requiring the payment of one month's fees following the death of a resident who paid for their own care.
In order to ensure that care homes take a consistent and lawful approach, the CMA will be publishing compliance advice for the sector as a whole. It has launched a public consultation seeking views on the draft advice, in order to reach a final view on whether it's fair to charge fees after death and, if so, for how long. The consultation closes on the 16th February.
As a part of this the CMA has an online questionnaire aimed at people who have experienced this type of fee relating to a loved one's care. The link to the online survey is here. I am very keen that residents from Brixham, Totnes, Dartmouth, Paignton and across South Devon can feed into this consultation and that a wide range of views are taken into account.
Vote 100 Programme
The Vote 100 programme will celebrate the anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act which gave all men and some women the vote for the first time, as well as other important democratic milestones. You can find out more about this at the following website
EqualiTeas, are running between the 18th of June and the 2nd of July and they will be a UK-wide celebration of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act. The hope is that schools and community groups will get together over a cup of tea to share, debate and celebrate this important anniversary. You can find out more about this here
UK Parliament Week this year takes place from the 12th to the 18th of November and how you take part in this is entirely up to you. If you want to register an event or activity you can do so here
You will need to register before the 30th of September and when you do you will receive a free kit including activities, ideas and all the materials you'll need to take part.
Calling all South Hams Businesses
Consultation on South Hams District Council's Budget 2018/19
As part of the annual budget setting process, South Hams and West Devon Councils have a statutory duty to consult with businesses on the Councils' Budget Proposals for the next financial year.
The Council would like to capture the views of businesses electronically (as they did last year) and they have designed a short questionnaire with five questions for this purpose.
The survey will close on Friday 16 February and the results will be shared with all Councillors.
Government Childcare Support
I am pleased the government has taken action on the issues surrounding childcare provision as making sure that childcare is affordable, accessible and high quality is one of the best ways to help parents into the work place and also ensures our children receive top notch early years education.
New childcare support measures are being rolled out and to find out more about what you and your children could benefit from please do go to the following website: https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk/
Support for parents includes 30 hours of childcare for the working parents of 3 and 4 year olds, up from the 15 hours a week that were being provided previously. Parents claiming Universal Credit (UC) are also supported with up to 85% of their childcare costs for children under 16.
For those on higher incomes there is Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) which provides up to £2,000 of support for childcare costs for children under 12 (or under 17 and up to a higher maximum of £4000 for those with disabilities); is paid per child; and, crucially, is available to self-employed parents, as well as to employed parents (though earnings eligibility criteria apply). The TFC rollout will complete on 14 February.
In addition, the government will continue to provide all 3 and 4 year olds with 15 hours a week of early education and this was extended to provide the most disadvantaged 2 year olds with 15 hours a week in 2013.
South West Rail
Following pressure from SW Conservative MPs, I was pleased to receive the following letter from Chris Grayling today. I welcome this positive first step.
I am writing to you today to update you on work on Rail in the South West and the progress we are making on our ambitions for your constituents. I appreciate all the work that colleagues are continuing to do on prioritising transport schemes and the DfT will set out our strategy, following the PRTF report, by the end of February.
Dawlish remains our number one national priority and ensuring we find a permanent solution for this vital connection, is never out of mind. As you will recall, shortly after the publication of the PRTF report and my appointment as Secretary of State, the Department moved quickly to the next stage of the work commissioning Network Rail to look at the engineering options. Additionally, I visited the work last year to see for myself this vital rail corridor.
The Department has continued to take forward work to develop solutions for the line through Dawlish and Teignmouth. The £15m funding that has been provided to Network Rail for this purpose is focused on the three most urgent elements identified within their resilience study, in order of magnitude.
This is a complex project which has required extensive work with the Environment Agency, but the work is ongoing and I have asked Network Rail to deliver a planned solution as quickly as practical. My aim is to begin the full work quickly after the completion of this development phase.
This region is vital to the whole UK which is why we are providing funding to support a significant increase in track upgrades activity across the network, including in the South West, and increasing maintenance spending to deliver a more reliable railway. This is part of the recently announced an expected rail investment of around £47.9bn for Network Rail in England and Wales over the period from 2019 to 2024.
The current work includes re-signalling of the main line from Totnes to Penzance via Plymouth, allowing a more frequent two trains per hour local/regional service, to be operated by High Speed Trains with four modernised coaches.
Beginning this summer there will be 29 new Intercity Express bi-mode trains running on the London to Penzance Great Western Route. These will replace 40-year-old stock and will provide more than 1,000 extra peak time seats compared to today.
A new timetable significantly improves typical journey times from London to Plymouth by reducing the differences between the current fastest journey time and the longer journey times experienced on many journeys.
In addition, the Department is contributing £9 million to a Cornish package securing the modernisation of the London to Cornwall Sleepers and moving the Sleeper maintenance from London to a new facility at Long Rock Depot, near Penzance. This depot was handed over to GWR in December 2017 and the first day and sleeper carriages are already in service, with remaining vehicles to be introduced early in 2018.
We have also been at work on an extensive programme of resilience across the network, in the wake of the floods in 2014.
At Cowley Bridge, just north of Exeter, Network Rail has already raised all of the lineside railway signal cabinets at the site, putting them above the level of the November 2016 flood. Additionally work to widen and improve the existing flood culvert was undertaken during 2017 and an additional culvert will be installed this summer to significantly improve the protection of the railway.
A further option of removal of three weirs has been examined by Network Rail as a potential last stage of its work to help protect the railway from flooding. Delivery of this is subject to a detailed assessment of the impact of such a scheme of the wider area to be carried out by Network Rail, consent from the Environment Agency and funding availability.
Flood resilience work has also been completed at Whiteball and is being progressed at Axe and Broom on the route from Exeter to Waterloo.
You raised the question of the Speed to the West proposals in our recent conversation. Last year I tasked Network Rail with providing me with an initial assessment of the potential for journey time improvements through partial electrification and improvements in track alignment. Of course the work currently under way to electrify and improve the line between London and Bristol and London to Newbury will also mean shorter journey times.
I am currently reviewing the costs and business case for the first part of the proposals, and would assure you that we will, if we decide that this is the right approach, be able to integrate this with planned renewals of the track between Totnes and Plymouth.
In addition we have instructed GWR to prepare plans to introduce regular train services to Okehampton, with the objective of securing a credible and costed plan for delivering an all-week, all-year train service between Exeter and Okehampton as soon as reasonably practicable.
I will continue to update you on the progress as we continue to invest in this vital part of our rail infrastructure.
The South Brent Old School Community Centre
Following the closure of the Post Office at the Newsagents in South Brent, a Post Office Service will be available at the Old School Community Centre at the following times:-
Wednesday 09:00 to 13:00
Friday 09:00 to 12:00
Saturday 09:00 to 12:00
All Banking Services for All Major Banks Available!
Launch of NHSquicker App
The app shows waiting times for local emergency departments and minor injuries units, based on your location.
It also shows live travel times to help people make informed decisions about where to go when they are in need of urgent care. You can also use NHSquicker to find information about less urgent NHS services, such as GPs, pharmacies, sexual health services, dentists and opticians
You can find out more about this via the following website.
Measures to Tackle Puppy Farming
We are a nation of dog lovers and when getting a new pet I know that most of us want to make absolutely sure we are not inadvertently supporting the cruel practice of puppy farming . However, for too long puppies have been for sale in the UK that have been reared in appalling circumstances by unscrupulous breeders who have a total disregard for their welfare.
I am glad the government has now announced a raft of measures for consideration to try and tackle this problem. Proposals being looked at include the following
- Making sure that licensed dog breeders show puppies alongside their mother before a sale is made and puppy sales are completed in the presence of the new owner.
- Insisting that licensed dog breeders can only sell puppies they have bred themselves and regulating adverts ensuring licensed sellers of all pets, including puppies, include the seller's licence number, country of origin and country of residence of the pet in any advert for sale.
- Measures to tackle unethical and cruel puppy smuggling across borders will be explored and the breeding of puppies with genetic disorders will be addressed.
I am pleased that the government is so committed to improving animal welfare and these plans are another step forward in ensuring that we have the highest standards in the world. You can read more about this announcement via the following website.
Consultation on Opt Out Organ Donation
The consultation on changing organ and tissue donation rules in this country to one of presumed consent, where people must opt out of the organ donation register rather than opting in, has opened and will run until the 6th of March 2018.
I realise this is a controversial proposal with some feeling strongly that many people would already be happy to donate organs but simply do not get around to registering and others believing that a move such as this creates an uncomfortable assumption that the state has a right to our bodies after death.
An opt out system has already been introduced in Wales and there have been arguments that it has not vastly increased transfer rates. However it has also not been in place for that long, so it may be too early to tell how beneficial the change has been.
The consultation will examine areas such as how much say families have in their deceased relative's decision to donate their organs, when exemptions to 'opt-out' would be needed, what safeguards would be necessary and how a new system might affect certain groups depending on age, disability, race or faith.
I strongly recommend that everyone with an interest in this area shares their views on this divisive topic. You can find out more about the consultation and how to contribute via the following website.
Channel 4 Interview
30 Hours Free Childcare
I am delighted that the Government met its commitment to launch 30 hours free childcare earlier this year.
Parents wanting to take up a 30 hours place for their child in the January term should apply now and ideally by 30 November to ensure they receive their eligibility code in good time for next term.
Parents who already have a child taking up a 30 hours place also need to confirm their details are up to date every three months.
Parents will receive an email notification four weeks and two weeks before this date, reminding them to do so. Parents will need to confirm their details via their online childcare account, which can be found at www.gov.uk/childcareaccount.
Dartmouth Caring recently launched a new video about loneliness.
The video highlights the fact that loneliness can affect people of all ages and the importance of local support in dealing with it.
Dartmouth Caring is a local charity supporting its local community and working closely with its health and welfare professionals for the benefit of individuals in its community.
PM's open letter to EU citizens in the UK
The Prime Minister has published an open letter today, promising to make it as easy as possible for EU citizens to obtain settled status in the UK.
The letter explains that the government is in touching distance of an agreement on citizens' rights and promises that the process for EU nationals to register to stay in the UK will be streamlined – with EU citizens having a direct say over how it will work.
New Post Office in Paignton
I was pleased to hear that a new Post Office is scheduled to open on Tuesday the 10th of October at Gilletts, 79 Kings Ash Road, Paignton, TQ3 3TY.
It will be a local style branch and customers will be able to carry out a wide range of Post Office transactions alongside retail purchases.
The new service will offer longer opening hours, with the Post Office opening hours in line with the retail business and will be open from 6.30 am to 11pm Monday to Saturday and from 7am to 11pm on Sundays.
Salmon Five Point Approach
The Environment Agency is launching an initial consultation on the options which have been developed to meet the Salmon Five Point Approach Commitment of "further reducing the exploitation of salmon by net and rod fisheries".
The EA are seeking input on the proposed options to control the exploitation of salmon from our coasts and rivers in England and on the Border Esk. You can make comments via the EA consultation portal which will run until 9 October 2017. Responses can be made online or by post, as an individual or as part of a wider group or organisation. You can contact the Salmon 5 Point Five Point Approach Team on 03708 506 506 or S5PA@environment-agency.gov.uk.
Identify theft reaches epidemic levels. Guard your personal details.
Fraudsters are obtaining personal information, such as names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details, by hacking computers, trawling social media, stealing mail, tricking people to disclose their details, or buying information through the 'dark web'. And they're using it to pretend to be that individual for their own financial gain, applying for loans or store cards in their name for example.
A vast amount of personal data is available online; and statistically, victims are more likely to be in their 30s and 40s, often because of the amount of information about them that has been gathered online. Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service's Manager Steve Gardiner says "Most victims will be totally unaware that information about them has been taken by someone else and it's only when they spot an unexplained transaction on their statement, or they get a call from the bank to query an attempted transaction, that they realise. And sometimes that's too late."
So what can you do to avoid becoming a victim of ID theft and fraud arising from it?
• Take care about the amount of personal information that you voluntarily post online, particularly to social media sites. Think about what someone else might be able to do with that information about you if they found it online. Be aware and check, especially before you post your address or date of birth, that you are using an official and secure website.
• Use anti-virus and anti-spyware programmes, and keep your computer's firewall up to date. Most threats to cyber security can be removed by using these.
• Don't ever share your passwords. Passwords are your first line of defence against cyber criminals online, so don't share them or write them down. The same is true for Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). Don't share that either. Here's an article on Martin Lewis', Money Saving Expert website, about password security.
• Make passwords and PINs 'strong'. Don't use your date of birth, your child's or pet's name; and try to include a mix of characters – upper and lower case, and numbers. Aim for a minimum of 10 characters in a password.
• Don't use the same password or PIN for more than one account.
• Shred all your financial documents before your throw them away.
More information about guarding your personal details is available on Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service's website.
Consultation on Introducing CCTV in English Slaughterhouses
I have long been a supporter of making CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses and I am pleased that the government have now announced a consultation on this.
Measures like this will help ensure the UK is a world leader on animal welfare issues and the proposals will make it necessary for slaughterhouses to record all areas where live animals are present.
Authorised officers such as official veterinary surgeons would have unrestricted access to footage, reassuring consumers that high welfare standards are being effectively enforced.
These proposals should help to increase public confidence in the welfare standards of Great British food and you can find out more about the consultation via the following link.
Big is Not Always Best: Opening Up the Aid Budget to Small Charities Across the UK
I welcomed the creation of the Small Charities Challenge Fund earlier this month which will help small charities in the UK access funding from the Department for International Development. Organisations with an income of less than £250,000 a year are now able to apply for grants of up to £50,000 in order to help the people they are supporting in the worlds most disadvantaged countries.
I support our aid budget, but I know that many do not. We can all agree that it is essential that the money we do give is spent more effectively. I believe this fund will help to do that as often it is the case that community led organisations know best what delivers change on the ground. There will always be a key role for larger charities but that must not mean excluding many of those organisations linked to communities and charities here in the UK.
More information on how to apply for funding and what projects will be eligible can be found on the following website: www.ukaiddirect.org
Womens Rights to choose should apply to all parts of the UK
Thank you to all those constituents who contacted me about Stella Creasy MP's amendment. I have long made my position clear on supporting the right for women to have safe access to termination of pregnancy and thanks to the support of backbench MPs, myself included and led by Maria Miller MP, former chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, the government have agreed a way forward on this and the amendment was withdrawn. The government is now proposing that women from Northern Ireland who travel to England for a termination will no longer have to pay for this service, with the cost of this being paid for by the Government Equalities Office.
I welcome the cross party consensus that has prompted the government to make this sensible proposal. You can view the full letter from Justine Greening explaining how this is being taken forward.
Confidence and Supply
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has agreed to work with the Conservatives on a confidence and supply basis. This means that the DUP will support the Government on important 'confidence' votes such as finance bills and the Queen's speech. The DUP will also support 'supply' bills that allocate the funds for Government policies. While some of the DUP's policies will be taken into account by the government, such as keeping the pensions triple lock and winter fuel payments for all pensioners, their social policy positions on matters like same sex marriage and abortion are devolved issues and will not influence decision making in England. In any case, votes on issues such as this are votes of conscience and subject to a free vote by individual MPs. I have long made my position clear on supporting the right for women to have safe access to termination of pregnancy and on LGBT rights. I will always oppose the death penalty and the teaching of creationism in schools and there is no chance of these being introduced.
The deal allocates £1bn of extra funding for Northern Ireland, alongside greater control over £500m of funds that have already been committed to Northern Ireland. This does not increase funding to Scotland or Wales because it will not be subject to the Barnett formula. The terms of the agreement can be found here, and background on the financial aspect of the deal here.
One of the most serious concerns raised however, has been around the potential impact on the Good Friday Agreement. The Government must be vigilant in maintaining neutrality and also consult regularly with other Parties. The point has also been made that the extra funding available will ease some of the tensions that have acted as a barrier to the reestablishment of a power sharing executive in Stormont.
South Devon College celebrates even more success!
South Devon College was awarded the highest rating of 'Gold' under the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), a system for recognising excellent teaching and learning in higher education.
The TEF Gold rating is further endorsement of the high standards of teaching, learning and support delivered at University Centre South Devon.
South Devon College has also received the prestigious Investors in People (IIP) Platinum accreditation, the highest level awarded by the people management standard. South Devon College is the only College in England to have achieved Platinum status and this prominent distinction confirms the College's status as not just a leading Further Education College, but also as a top employer in the country, as it joins the top 7% of accredited organisations across the UK.
Further recognition of the importance of South Devon College to the area was a recent £500,000 grant towards a 3G pitch as they enter the first phase of development for a new £3million community sports pavilion based at White Rock, adjacent to the Vantage Point campus in Paignton. This exciting development will aim to serve the community and inspire individuals to participate and enjoy spectator sports.
The purpose-built facility will ensure the delivery of education and training across the College's activities including South Devon High School, the further education and higher education curriculum and a range of apprenticeship programmes. Local students and the community will all benefit from state of the art resources and equipment.
I visited Rowcroft Hospice last week and I will be running the Torbay Half Marathon this weekend (25th June) to raise funds for them as it is a great cause and helps so many people.
Acute Services Review Recommendations
Services such as stroke, maternity, paediatrics and neonatal care and urgent and emergency care were included in the first stage of the review. Other services will be reviewed in a later second stage.
Announcing the results of the first stage, clinicians said that all four acute hospitals in Devon, would continue with A&E, emergency stroke services and maternity services. This would be acknowledged by stronger collaboration between clinical teams and new networking and workforce solutions.
Other key recommendations include:
• 24/7 urgent and emergency care services (including A&E) should continue to operate at our four main acute hospitals – the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, North Devon District Hospital, Derriford Hospital and Torbay Hospital.
• Continuing to provide first-line emergency response for people experiencing symptoms of a stroke at all four hospitals. This will include rapid stroke assessment, diagnostics and thrombolysis. These services will be supported by 'Acute Stroke Units' (ASUs) at all four sites, and will ensure rapid intervention and aftercare for those with a stroke.
• Working towards clinical best practice to improve outcomes for stroke patients by developing two specialist 'Hyperacute Stroke Units' (HASUs) in Exeter and Plymouth where patients will receive 3 or more days of intensive treatment for their stroke immediately following emergency treatment, following which they will return home or to their local ASU.
• Retaining consultant-led maternity services at all four main hospital sites is proposed. These specialist units have access to 24/7 clinical care and the specialist services to provide more intensive care when that is needed.
• Delivering choice for home or midwifery-led births will continue to be provided in line with the national strategy 'Better Births'. Therefore, clinicians have recommended adoption of the strong evidence base for midwifery-led units co-located with consultant-led units.
• Maternity, neonatal and paediatric inpatient services will be retained at all four main hospital sites
The clinical recommendations are the first stage in the review. As part of the second stage, the recommendations will be tested in more detail to ensure they can be delivered with safe, cost-effective and reliable staffing solutions for the future.
Only once this assurance work is complete, can the recommendations be finalised. This is an important step, as the recommendations do not, at this time, immediately solve all the problems that drove the need to review these services.
Should the final proposals be likely to result in significant change to local services, the public will be fully consulted in line with the NHS' statutory requirements. A full timetable would also be developed and published.
A full briefing and a report of public involvement into this review is available on the Devon STP website
St. John's Community Café in Bridgetown, Totnes
Wednesday 5th July will see the launch of the St. John's Community Café in Bridgetown, Totnes. The community café will open weekly from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm and will offer excellent coffee, the finest teas, homemade cakes and other light refreshments. The café is centred on the church's aim of making it difficult to be lonely in Bridgetown, and wants to create a weekly space where anyone in the community can come and find a welcome, acceptance, friendship and support. The café will operate on a 'pay what you can' basis so that no-one need worry about coming because of a lack of finances.
Save the lives of others, while going about yours
It's National Blood Week from 19 – 25 June and we're helping to celebrate how blood donors make a difference every day, saving people whose lives depend on blood.
Over the last year 900,000 people have given up their time by donating blood to help patients in need. But we need 200,000 new blood donors to ensure that patients in the future have access to the blood they need, when they need it.
There is also an urgent need for 40,000 new black donors to improve the lives of thousands of patients with sickle cell disease. They need life-saving blood from black donors, which provides the closest match to their own. Together, we can vastly improve the lives the 15,000 people in the UK who live with Sickle Cell Disease and over 300 new babies born every year with the condition.
When you give blood, you can save someone's life while going about your own. All you need to do is give blood, and you'll be right there, helping someone when they need it.
Register to give blood. or call 0300 123 23 23 to find your nearest session.
NHS Health Fair 22nd June
A major NHS fair in Newton Abbot will enable people to find out about the latest health developments in South Devon and Torbay.
The CCG is bringing together a wide range of local organisations at the Avenue Church to show how groundbreaking developments link with traditional methods of healthcare to help people's wellbeing now and into the future.
Anyone wanting to attend is asked to email their confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01803 652500.
Among the organisations taking part on 22 June will be Public Health, two GP practices demonstrating online consultations, Newton Abbot-based charity KingsCare, Healthwatch, and online health broadcaster Hiblio.
Pharmacists and GPs will be there to give health checks, as well as information or advice on issues such as weight, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol checks.
Also attending the health fair will be Torbay and South Devon Healthcare Trust, which runs Torbay Hospital.
The health fair begins at 10am, followed at 11.30am by the CCG governing body's annual general meeting (AGM), which will enable people to find out about the organisation's performance during the past year and its plans for the future
St Mary's Church, Totnes
Totnes with Bridgetown Parochial Church Council has embarked on a scheme to restore the magnificent fabric of St Mary's church, and to reorder the interior of the building so that it is more suited to modern community use. At the same time, Totnes Trust, which is dedicated to preserving heritage buildings and improving public spaces in the town, has embarked on a Heritage Area Project to make the area around the Church into one of the most attractive and unique historic areas in any small town in the UK.
The two organisations have come together to work on this project as a productive team. The resultant St Mary's Partnership has now been joined by Totnes Town Council as well. The Partnership believes that these projects can only succeed if the community are involved through extensive public consultation, and so there will be two stages of consultation at events to be held in the Church. The first stage will be an opportunity to contribute ideas, and will run between the hours of 10.00am – 4.00pm on:
Friday 9th June Saturday 10th June
Thursday 15th June Friday 16th June Saturday 17th June
The moving story of a Devon teenager who took illegal drugs and is paying the price.
Devon and Cornwall Police have released a heartfelt video showing the devastating effects of illegal drugs on a fifteen year old Devon teenager.
In the video, Harley tells how he took substances known as 'legal highs' when he was just fifteen. As a result, he suffered a near fatal stroke and is now struggling with life changing consequences. He was hospitalised for a number of months and he had to learn to talk, walk and feed himself again.
In a bid to prevent other young people from making the same mistakes, Harley is visiting schools in the South of Devon to speak face-to-face with the students and answer any questions they have. His honesty and frankness touch the hearts of those who meet him. He leaves the students with his emotive message "I paid the consequences, I wish I could turn back time".
If you have are aware of anyone who is supplying illegal drugs, contact the Police on 101, or you can give information anonymously to Crime Stoppers on Tel: 0800 555 111 or on line at www.crimestoppers-org.uk. Please quote Operation Venus.
Lifetime ISA and Personal Tax Free Allowance
From 6th April 2017 savers can start paying into the Lifetime ISA and the increase in the Personal tax free allowance sets in – benefitting millions of ordinary working people right across the United Kingdom.
Millions of people will see their take home pay increase because of this action to raise the Personal Allowance and introduce the Lifetime ISA.
The Armed Forces Covenant
The Armed Forces Covenant promises that veterans, the Armed Forces and their families receive the support they deserve. Enshrined in law in 2011, it ensures that members of the Armed Forces community are not disadvantaged in accessing Government and commercial services. Based on the principles of the Covenant, members of the Armed Forces can access:
- Recruitment services to those leaving the armed forces for two years after their discharge date through the Career Transition Partnership
- Specialist military and civilian doctors' services for issues such as mental health, trauma, and prosthetics, as well as the possibility of priority access to treatment if the condition is thought to be caused by time in service. These services can be accessed by notifying the GP that you are a military veteran
- Veterans' Welfare Service for the small minority of veterans who find themselves in custody, which helps those in prison and provides support to improve their lives on return to their communities. They can be contacted on 02392 702232
- High priority to social housing for seriously injured service personnel and veterans through local authorities, and there is a £200 million 'Forces Help to Buy Scheme'
- Specific advice on compensation scheme claims and on where to get help on benefits, pensions, loans and grants, emergency accommodation, finding a job, re-training, health issues, welfare concerns, service records and medals through Veterans UK. They can be contacted on 0808 1914 218
A new service called Veterans Gateway will be launched on the 22 May and will offer a 24/7 service for advice on issues such as housing, employability and health.
Lastly, the Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club provides an opportunity for veterans and serving personnel to meet in an informal setting and reengage with former colleagues – there is one in Newton Abbot and one in Torbay. Further details can be accessed here
South West Trains
The Department for Transport recently announced that the South West Trains franchise, which runs services from stations such as Exeter to London, has been awarded to First MTR, the operator for Hong Kong's busy metro. The deal will last for seven years and will ensure new and faster trains, more seats and services, improved stations and more flexible fare options along the line.
The changes do not affect trains running to and from Totnes, but if you're travelling to a station like Exeter in order to catch a South West Train, you should get a better service in the near future.
Ofcom's proposals for companies to pay automatic compensation
Ofcom has set out new proposals to require phone and broadband companies to pay automatic compensation – either a cash payment, or a credit on a bill – to customers who suffer slow repairs, missed appointments or delays to starting new services.
When a customer's landline or broadband goes wrong, that is frustrating enough without having to fight to get fair compensation from the phone company. So Ofcom are proposing new rules to force providers to pay money back to customers automatically, whenever repairs or installations don't happen on time, or when people wait in for an engineer who doesn't turn up. This would mean customers are properly compensated, while providers will be incentivised to work harder to improve their service.
Compensation payments would be set by Ofcom, and designed to reflect the degree of harm suffered by consumers. Here is how Ofcom's automatic compensation scheme would work:
|Problem||A landline or broadband customer would be entitled to compensation if...||Amount of compensation|
|Delayed repair following loss of service||Their service has stopped working and it is not fully fixed after 2 full working days||£10 for each calendar day the service is not repaired|
|Missed appointments||An engineer does not turn up for a scheduled appointment, or it is cancelled with less than 24 hours' notice||£30 per missed appointment|
|Delays with the start of a new service||Their provider promises to start a new service on a particular date, but fails to do so||£6 for each calendar day of delay, including the missed start date|
The Childcare Choices website has been launched
Millions of parents can pre-register for the government's new childcare offers, with the launch of a new website Childcare Choices.
The government's Tax-Free Childcare scheme will begin on 28 April, for parents of the youngest children. It will be gradually rolled out over 2017 – cutting childcare costs for working families across the UK by up to £2,000 per child per year, or £4,000 for disabled children.
On top of this, from September this year parents of three and four year old children living in England will be able to apply for a new 30 hours free childcare offer, worth around £5,000 per child.
The Childcare Choices website includes a Childcare Calculator for parents to compare all the government's childcare offers and check what works best for their families.
Through the site parents can also pre-register for email alerts that will notify them when they can apply, as well as providing details of existing government childcare offers.
Suicide Prevention Report
The Health Select Committee, which I chair, released it's report in to suicide prevention today (16/03/17) and you may be interested to read it here.
I also spoke about this on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning and you may like to listen to this here. I spoke approximately 50 minutes in to the programme.
The Grove and Ball Copse at Churston
Work at woodlands in Churston in response to the Forestry Commission serving Statutory Plant Health Notices for the Grove and Ball Copse woodlands is currently taking place. For more information please click on the following link.
The Great Get Together
It's hard to believe but it will soon be a year since Jo Cox was murdered.
In the past year, a lot has happened, but nothing that has begun to ease the pain or fill the gap that Jo has left in our lives, and to mark the anniversary, it is hoped that communities and neighbours will get together, to share food and to celebrate what we hold in common. Jo's killing was aimed at dividing us and there is no better response to that, than a public showing of unity. It is hoped to show that no matter what party your vote for, where you come from or how you voted in a referendum - there is more that unites us than divides us.
As such you are invited to take part in 'The Great Get Together' by holding events on the 17 and 18th of June (the 16th is the actual anniversary) from street parties and picnics to shared barbecues and community bake offs with the aim of building one of the UK's biggest ever community events.
More information is available from the following website.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK government departments and other public organisations. This is done without taking sides and the service is free.
The PHSO have just launched a new website to make it easier for people to find and understand how the PHSO can assist. The website will help get answers to straightforward questions and encourage on line complaints. It also features a complaint checker to help people complain to the right organisation at the right time.
I know that the recent Supreme Court ruling on the need for Parliament to give approval to trigger Article 50 has concerned many. My view however, is that we all benefit from an independent judiciary, doing their job free from political control and that this judgement has upheld the supremacy of Parliament.
The European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill is now before Parliament and you can follow its progress and read its short text here
I will be respecting the decision of the majority in the referendum and voting to give the Prime Minister the power to trigger Article 50. I will be following the debate closely and as chair of the Health Select Committee, scrutinising the implications to health, including public health, of Brexit and the Article 50 process.
The Modern Industrial Strategy and the South West
This week the government announced plans for a Modern Industrial Strategy which recognises that, though our economy is strong, its benefits remain unevenly distributed across the UK. You can read more about this here
Rural areas such as the South West have long been seen to be missing out in comparison to the London metropolis and the Northern Powerhouse and I was glad to hear plans for the South West include investment in local transport infrastructure, more flood defences and support for research and innovation. The Green Paper on Building Our Industrial Strategy has now been published and you can view it here
The government is consulting on the plans included in the paper and you can share your views up until the 17th of April 2017. You can find out how to contribute here
Exporting is Great Campaign: Support for International Trade
The PM has now given the most detailed speech we have heard yet on the government's plans for exiting the European Union. Those who were angling for a so called 'soft Brexit' will have been disappointed, but for all of us who wanted some more candid details about the government's post EU direction it was illuminating.
The PM unequivocally stated that we will not remain in the Single Market but provided reassurance that she will push for the greatest possible access to it. Nonetheless, I know many businesses will be now looking to see where future trading opportunities may lie outside of the EU.
Therefore I hope the many thriving enterprises we have in the constituency will be interested in the new government initiative that has been launched by the Department for International Trade. Th